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Cedar Plank Salmon with Hollandaise

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I can’t eat like I used to. About a year and a half ago I picked up running for some ungodly reason, and damned if it hasn’t had a fantastic effect on my health. So for Christmas Eve I’ve decided to make a wonderful dinner that’s also on the lighter side: Salmon Filets on cedar planks. Of course to aid in people feeling like they’re over-indulging I’ll be adding richness in the form of a fresh hollandaise sauce.

Cedar Plank Salmon with Hollandaise

Ingredients

4 salmon filets (4 – 6 oz each)

2 Cedar planks, roughly 6″ x 12″ or so (Optional)

Marinade

3 gloves garlic, minced

4 TBSP Olive Oil

2 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp black pepper

1 ½ tsp salt

 

Hollandaise

4 egg yolks

1 TBSP fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ cup unsalted melted butter

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp tarragon

½ tsp black pepper

2 tsp white vinegar

Soak your cedar planks, if you’re going that route, for at least 2 hours in lightly salted water. Meanwhile whisk marinade ingredients and pour over salmon filets. Allow to marinate in refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes, turning once.

Heat oven to 400. If not using cedar planks, spray a glass pan or cookie sheet with non-stick spray or cover in aluminum foil, and place salmon skin side down on cookie sheet or plank. Bake salmon uncovered for 12-16 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork. Cook until the internal temp of 130-135 degrees is reached; the more you cook salmon the “fishier” tasting it will become. Me? I like my fish to lack any “fishiness” and aim for just a warm center, about 12-13 minutes of cooking.

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While the salmon is baking, get your hollandaise together. I’m not going to lie: This isn’t fun to make. Is it worth it? Yes. Will your arm whisk those yolks so much that you’ll feel it 12 hours after finishing your meal? Probably.

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Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice together in a stainless steel or glass bowl until they’ve thickened a bit. Please the bowl over a saucepan containing water that is barely simmering (or a double boiler if you got one); make sure the water level is low enough that it does not touch the bottom of the bowl you’ve placed over it. While whisking the egg yolk mixture, drizzle in the melted butter. Once incorporated, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the salt, peppers, and tarragon. If the sauce becomes too thick, whisk in the white vinegar. If the sauce is too thin move it back over the simmering water for another couple of minutes while whisking constantly. It should be thick enough to nicely coat a spoon, but still be drizzled over your yummy target of fish, poached eggs, artichoke, etc.

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Once your salmon is out of the oven drizzle about ¼ TBSP of Hollandaise sauce over every 1 oz of fish. If you’ve got fillets that are roughly 4oz each, I would recommend a mere 1 TBSP of Hollandaise per filet, as you want to TASTE the salmon. Sure, there will be some who want to drown the protein in the Hollandaise, but they really just want the Hollandaise, not the fish. And, besides, if you have some Hollandaise left over, you can store it in tupperware in the fridge for up to 2 days and reheat by whisking over the double boiler again, i.e. EGGS BENEDICT FOR BREAKFAST THE NEXT MORNING!! Whoot to the Whizoot.

Serve with rice, a simple salad, or even grilled asparagus with shaves Parmesan.

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Reverse Reese’s: Chocolate Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies!

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Okay, life has been so stressful and overwhelming lately, that I’ve gotten away from the fun things. I have only been to the gym twice this week, I’ve barely been eating (let alone eating well), and I’ve allowed what brings me joy to be pushed away by things that already deserve less of my time than I give them.

So today I am reclaiming my life just for me: I went to the gym this morning, had a light and bright brunch, cleaned my house while my hubby did laundry, carved a pumpkin and NOW I’m going to make some peanut butter cookies!

My Jack Skellington Jack-O-Lantern

Chip looooooves peanut butter cookies, but I find them to often be salty and lacking…probably because they don’t have any chocolate in them. Well, I’m changing that today, dammit. This afternoon I’ll be making what I call a Reverse Reese’s, that is I peanut butter cookie stuffed with chocolate. 1. Are these healthy? No. 2. Do I care? See the answer to the first question.

Reverse Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter (Smooth or crunchy. I use smooth, because, like a child, I think crunchy is gross.)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour (You want to sift it? What are you, an over-acheiver?)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (Optional. I find there’s enough salt in the peanut butter that this isn’t necessary.)                     1 cup Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Use Jiff peanut butter. Or Peter Pan. Or your local grocery store’s generic brand. I know, I know, these are processed, but it’s much harder to get the correct consistency both before and after cooking if you use something organic that often separates. Also, spritz your measuring cup with a little non-stick spray so your peanut butter doesn’t wind up being obnoxious to get out of there. Whip together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, and vanilla. Incorporate the egg. Sprinkle in the flour with your mixer on low in 2-3 batches. Add the baking soda and salt if using, and mix for an additional 30 seconds. or until everything is well combined. It will pull cleanly away from the sides of your bowl when complete.

If your kitchen is warm or it’s a hot day, stick the dough in the fridge for 5-10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350 (F). Use this time to clean up. I gave my KitchenAid mixer a good cleaning, tossed most stuff in the sink and wiped down the counter. My KitchenAid is my dream boat, which I inherited from my grandmother. It’s from the 70’s, just look at the plug on the thing, and it works like a champ! Love. It.

Once your dough is ready, take a heaping tablespoon of the peanut butter goodness and flatten in the palm of your hand. Smoosh (that’s the medical term) 8-10 chocolate chips into the center and fold the dough over and seal. Try and keep the chocolate chips in a cluster in the center if you want a Reverse Reese’s. Worst case scenario is you wind up with chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, so you can’t really mess this up. Place on a cookie sheet (these are oily enough that you don’t need to spray your pan) and gently press to about a half inch thick.

Bake for 13-16 minutes. I like mine soft and chewy, so these came out after 14 minutes. Let rest 3-5 minutes before moving off the cookies sheet because they are very delicate when they first come out.  

Serve with milk and a cool Autumn night. 

Orange White Chocolate Craisin Cookies

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A rainy day in Austin is like Christmas. To be able to open one’s windows, allow the breeze to come through is a rarity that must be thoroughly appreciated. I celebrate by making cookies. I don’t like to bake sweet crap too often, but when I do, I normally do it on a Sunday so the extras can either be baked into individual servings for lunches throughout the week or just brought into the office and dumped on less fatty coworkers.

Rather than making those heavy super mega chocolate cookies I normally make, I decided I wanted something lighter, fresher, something that would be great with a cup of coffee. I decided to take a usual cookie recipe and tweak by lightening the sugar and adding a little lemon, fruit, and love. Okay, not love, but I did really like the way they turned out. I call them Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookies ’cause I like the alliteration at the end there. I’m sure it should probably be something like the orange White Chocolate Craisin is a trademarked name of the Ocean Spray Company Cookies, or the much less exciting Lemon White Chocolate Dried Cranberry Cookies, but who the hell cares?

Lemon White Chocolate Craisin Cookie

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup backed brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP juice of a lemon

zest of one orange (about 3 tsps)

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cups Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. I know, that’s pretentious, but they really are the best for baking.

1/2 cup dried cranberries (Guess which brand I used?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar until delicious creamed. Add the egg and vanilla; beat until incorporated. Add the lemon juice (and take the 2 seconds and spend the 30 cents on a reallemon for that) and zest, and whip until it’s all combined.

Now at this point I’m supposed to tell you something like “In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda, then add slowly to the butter mixture…”, but I’m not going to tell you that. I made this recipe a couple of times (that’s what you do when you test and create recipes), once doing the flour and crap whisked in a separate bowl, and once at the end just adding it ingredient by ingredient. I’m going to blow your mind: It made NO difference. None. I bake to make my house smell all warm, fuzzy, and comforting, and to make my fatass fatter. Not for the delicate art of it all.

SO, once you got the butter and everything else mixed, add the flour. I added it a cup first, mixing well, then a cup and a half just so it wouldn’t make a mess. Then the salt, and then the baking soda. Mix until everything is combined. Add the white chocolate and the Craisins last; I have to do this quickly or I find my friends poaching the best ingredients.

Spray a cookie pan with nonp-stick spray and bake heaping tablespoon balls of dough, eight at a time per sheet for 10-12 minutes. I like my cookies chewy, so I did about 11 minutes on these. This recipe makes 24 good-sized cookies, not “fun” size, which is a size I call “small as crap”. I took a picture below of the sized balls of dough versus the final product to give you an idea of size. I don’t have huge man hands or weirdo tiny girl hands like I’m still a child, but I don’t like the way they look in this photo either…

I found these the right sweetness to have with a cup of coffee in lieu of a biscotti. There is a simple glaze, however, that really gives them an extra punch of lemony flavor. When I asked my buds if they “needed” the glaze their response was thus:

“I’m not going to say the need the glaze, because they’re very tasty, but….well, everything’s better with stuff on top.”

My friends loved this glaze like a six year old loves Dunkaroos, but I prefer them without, or with very little glaze.

Simple Lemon Glaze for Anything, but Especially Good with these Cookies

1 cup confectioners sugar

3 TBSP orange juice

The zest of 1 lemon

Whisk everything together and drizzle lightly over cooled cookies. Or french toast. Or pork chops. Hell, it’s simple and awesome, throw it on anything. But make sure to enjoy the cookies.

Pig & Fig – Quick, Easy, & Fancy – Paleo Friendly!

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A friend of mine has a neighbor with a wealth they don’t appreciate. Or, at least, more bounty than they can eat. Two huge fig trees, lime trees, and peach trees over-flow around the edges of their yard. Recently this friend of mine had the balls to ask that we have permission to pick at their harvest, and they graciously said “Yes”.

I love figs. I grew up with fig trees, in Connecticut of all places, and the sweet and delicate fruit was always a staple as the last course of dinner. My family did not, however, cook with this rich purple marvel. Now, however, with so many figs at our disposal or, rather, on our table, I’ve been forcing myself to come up with some new uses for this favorite fruit of mine.

Pork was an obvious place to turn. What compliments pig better than sweet? So I started with an easy, quick, flavorful, high protein, and – best of all – portable pig & fig recipe.

Ham cups are easy. If you have ham or prosciutto and a muffin/cupcake tin, you can make ham cups. For the filling, I decided on making a quiche like concoction to keep everything light and fluffy. This recipe makes eight cups; I recommend 2 or 3 for breakfast and they are easy to make on Sunday to be stored in tupperware for quick breakfasts throughout the week.

You’ll need:

8 slices deli ham or Prosciutto. I used black forest sliced on 1, though I would have used prosciutto if I wasn’t so lazy and didn’t want to wait in line.

2 eggs + 1 egg white. To make this fluffier you can use 1 egg + 2 egg whites.

1/4 cup coarsely chopped figs

1/2 TBSP Gorgonzola. I used just under a TBSP of Gorgonzola crumbles, but I like this flavor with the fig and ham. If you’re a fan use a little more than 1/2 TBSP, if not, use less.

3 TBSP plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 400. Spray a muffin/cupcake pan with cooking spray and lightly press a slice of ham into each muffin cup. It’s okay if your ham breaks or cracks: the egg will still setup just fine. Whisk together the eggs, figs, Gorgonzola, yogurt, parsley, salt, and pepper until blended and slightly frothy. Pour into ham cups until about 1/2-2/3 full.

Bake the cups for about 12 minutes. I baked mine for 11 only because they were cooked enough to dig into, but also so that when I reheat them later they won’t get horribly chewy and over cooked. Once finished the egg will have puffed a bit and, if slightly under cooking as I did, the very centers may jiggle slightly. Remove from oven and let sit 5 -8 minutes.

I served my cups with a trio of silver dollar honey pancakes, a recipe also on this site, and sliced figs. I topped the cups with just a little finely grated sharp cheddar, a bit more parsley, and I drizzled the figs with a little honey to bring everything together. The sweetness of the honeyed figs with the ham, creamy eggs, and bright Gorgonzola makes a great quick and easy breakfast to start the day with – and it’s healthy, too!

Austin Gastro Graze 2 UPDATE: MORE Foreign + Domestic Bake Sale

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*Scroll to bottom for Update and new photos of items.

There are 3 things you must know about Foreign and Domestic’s Saturday Bake Sales:

1. You absolutely should go, but go early.

2. It’s CASH ONLY.

3. Be prepared to wait in line, but, for a Foodie, it’s worth it.

This morning marked my second trip to the Foreign + Domestic Saturday Bake Sale. The first time I went was the first day they tried this baked goods masterpiece event. We got there a few minutes before opening and they sold out shortly there after, far before their 2pm closure time. Since that day Pastry Chef and Co-owner Jodi Elliott has streamlined the process, directing traffic in through one door and out through another. And as  there’s always a line, this is very helpful; people walk, bike, jog, and drive from all over the Austin area to score a Ham & Gruyere Croissant or mini buttermilk pie.

Ham & Gruyere croissant

There are always a dozen or more options, which makes choosing – and keeping your pink F&D to-go box from over flowing – rather difficult. Most items are $6, though their Black Pepper & Gruyere popovers, a light and indulgent staple from their dinner menu, are $4 and all are very large and easily shared…if you really want to. These fresh baked offerings are frequently too delicious to warrant nibbles from others. Often they have treats in jars for $6 as well, including a chocolate trifle (rich, velvety, with notes of vanilla, extra dark chocolate, and espresso) , a peach cobbler polka spotted with fresh vanilla bean, and fluffy chocolate mousse.

Black Pepper & Gruyere Popover…1/2 eaten

There is always a good mix of sweet and savory, vegetarian and Ham filled (notice I capitalize the H in Ham the way most people capitalize the G in God), but different pastries rotate each week. Our first visit included a Strawberry and Cream Cheese buttercup and Tomato Mushroom Tarte Tatin, both of which were delicious, though as a lady that prefers items less sweet and more layered, the tomato tartin was complex in flavor as well as being light and a fantastic large snack for any time of day. Today I scored an exceptional Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant; the creamy, aged flavor was carried throughout the flaky pastry without being overwhelming and the onions lent a sweetness that perfectly balanced strong cheese and the buttery and crispy dough. My friend Tania, who first told me about Foreign + Domestic, and can be followed through tasty food exploits at @td_eats, joined me this morning and purchased personal butter milk pie ($6, and could easily feed 3 people), and a cinnamon bun, with icing that flavor-fully complimented the sweetened cinnamon treat rather than overpower it. The buttermilk pie had an excellent texture, much like a fluffy cheesecake with a gooey center, and was very bright and fresh with extra vanilla and a hint of lemon.

Buttermilk Pie

Elliott knows what she’s doing and is exceptionally good at it. This is a fairly cheap brunch even for a Foodie Grazer and Experimenter, and you can taste the care and thought that goes into each recipe with every bite. It’s well worth the $20 you’ll through down for a decent tasting of treats and you’ll get more than enough food to feed 2 or 3 people. Highly recommend. It’ll be the the only line worth waiting in for you whole Saturday.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Croissant

* 6/23/12 update

Went to the Bake Sale again today with a friend who just had a baby. What better way to get your strength back then to indulge in delicious pastry offerings?! Today was just like the other visits I’ve made to the Bake Sale: Excellent choices, incredible recipes, and cash only. I did notice, however, that after the usual intense burst of early birds, a line that always wraps around the building, the line really wore down to nothing at about 10:45am and there were still plenty offerings left. That being said, they do have a lunch rush so that window of opportunity can be fleeting. I wanted to show the reader, however, exactly what you can get for $20.

Please excuse the bites taken out of a couple of pieces above.

Also, please note that they are not sitting on a regular plate; they are on a platter.

What I purchased this pat Bake Sale was a strawberry cream cheese danish, made with fresh strawberries and it was HUGE, see below. It was more sweet than savory, but because the strawberries were fresh they weren’t too sweet, and the cheese was more tangy than sugary. I’m not normally a fan of “sweet” nor danishes, but this was created in perfect balance. Rather than eating a bit of dessert for breakfast, the freshness of the berries and creamy cheese counter against the flaky and buttery dough.

There’s also a ham & cheddar turnover that was massive and flavorful with thinly sliced ham and a thin spread of mustard on the inside. The turnovers where new and they offered the classic sweet apple as well as the ham. There were also sour cream donuts, that, like the danish, balanced sugar with intense flavors that made it far more in depth than merely sweet.

I  purchased a sausage breakfast sandwich, which was kept from being messy, by the ingenious method of cooking the eggs. While the sandwich itself is very, very large, it’s easily sharable, cutting in half does not cause the layers to fall apart and, as a Neat Freak as well as a Foodie, this is something I appreciate. The eggs are light and fluffy, and have been baked almost in a Yorkshire Pudding like way. If you notice above, it’s classic biscuit followed by a richly flavored sausage – I’m not normally a fan of sausage, but this was sweet and savory, absolutely delicious – and then another layer prior to the bottom of the biscuit. That layer is the whipped eggs, keeping the sandwich from sliding around on a round egg top and making sure that the eater gets a bite of white and yolk in each nibble. And, and finally, there’s a gruyere and black pepper pop-over.

The above plate cost $20 exactly. It fed myself, my friend (who has quite the Saturday brunch appetite), and we still have plenty of left overs to get us through brunch today. Though, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t stop eating that danish! I had brought friends to F+D with me on this trip and they, too, were blown away, asking before we left that we make sure to visit F+D regularly from now on.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @TheNerdyFoodie

Easy Fire-Free S’Mores

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In Austin we have the very weird problem of summer actually not being the season for S’mores. I love me some s’mores. All gooey, chocolatey, crunchy, sugary, and delicious. The thing is that here it gets entirely too hot to stand outside, have a fire toast a few ‘mallows, and throw together a s’more. Your chocolate will be melted by the heat of the sun, the flies will be all over you, and most of the time there’s a burn ban against fire pits anyway. Yes, we Austinites have 2 days of cooler days a year, Flash Not-Summer, where we can actually toast marshmallows for s’mores. Our seasons are as follows: Pre-Summer (January – February), Summer (March – October), Slightly Lesser Summer (November – December 29th), and, of course, Flash Not-Summer (December 30-31).

So, what to do? You can always microwave yourself one, but the chocolate is still hard as a rock and the graham cracker gets tough.

The simple answer: use your microwave for a simple ganache and make magic by swapping out the marshmallows for Fluff.

On a cookie sheet lined with wax paper I placed 14 graham cracker halves. I like a good amount of fluff, so in the center of each cracker I dropped s heaping tablespoon of the white stuff, allowing it to settle and spreading with a butter knife prayed with non-stick spray where needed. In a microwave-safe bowl I poured the contents of a bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips with 5-6 tablespoons of butter.

I microwaved the mixture in spurts for no more than 12 seconds at a time, stirring at each break. Once the chocolate was melted, I dropped a spoonful, about a level tablespoon, onto the fluff. I placed a graham cracker 1/8th onto the top of each so that the eater would have a place to hold with their fingertips without getting all gooey. Then I placed them in the fridge for 30 minutes to setup a bit.

I was tempted to add strawberry slices to a few and peanut butter to a couple. You could really do so many toppings that would stick perfectly to the fluff, even bananas with a little peanut butter on top for an Elvis inspired treat.

More than anything, though, I recommend these for any time you need an easy chocolate fix or a dessert you can make with your kids. You can keep leftovers in tupperware on the counter for about 3 days or in the fridge for about 5 until the graham starts softening.

Honey Butter Almond Pancakes

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This all started because I woke up wanting waffles. We have no waffle iron and I find most experiences of getting waffles out at a restaurant ultimately disappointing. Be that as it may, I crave waffles no less than 164 times a year. I eat them maybe once a year. And, generally, only in the lobby breakfast area of a Holiday Hotel Inn “continental” breakfast nook.

Inevitably, I wind up making pancakes for myself at home approximately bi-monthly. It soothes the rage of Waffle-Want, but only for a brief period. So, low and behold, before long I wake up wanting waffles.

“I want waffles!” I demanded, sitting straight up in bed.

“Make pancakes…” moaned my ever patient husband, used to the tumultuous need for waffles ever present in our marriage.

I padded down the hall to the kitchen, threw open the cupboards and found – NO Bisquik.

Shit.

I stomped back to bed and crawled under the blankets, defeated.

“Why don’t you just make pancakes from scratch?” My smart ass husband interjected into my moody undercover bitching.

“What am I : a lumberjack?!” I snarled back.

“My father used to make pancakes from scratch all the time,” Chip defended.

“YOUR FATHER WAS A LUMBERJACK!” I roared. His dad really was a lumberjack, I wasn’t kidding.

“So? It can still be done,” answered my husband quietly smiling, like the personification of The Little Book of Calm.

Well, since he put it that way, I thought maybe it can be done. And so that’s what I did: I bucked up and made some pancakes from scratch.

Fluffy Honey Butter Pancakes

The trick to fluffy, light pancakes to to leave your batter void of any eggs. You want thin, dense pancakes? Good for you; add an egg or two. Me? I like my pancakes about as dense as I like people, i.e. not at all.

  • 1  cup milk
  • 2 TBSP white vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 TBSP Almond butter, if you got it/want it. It’s totally optional.
  • 2 TBSP butter, melted

Combine the milk and vinegar and set aside. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder & soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Then whisk in the milk and vinegar mixture, butter, honey, extract, and almond butter if using. If the mixture seems to dry, add milk at a tablespoon at a time, up to an additional 1/4 cup. It should be relatively thick, but smooth, and pour slowly, but smoothly off the whisk. Heat a pan, skillet, whatevs, over medium-medium high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray even if the pan is non-stick. Once bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake and the first few pop, check the underside with a spatula. If the bottom is golden brown, flip and continue cooking an additional 1 minute to 1.5 minutes.

This will feed two ridiculously hungry adults, but they will have to take a serious nap in order to digest it. I recommend making this for 3-4 people.

Then keep your breakfast classy by serving with bacon and Aunt Jemima, but only if you’re out of Mrs. Buttersworth.

Please excuse the poor quality of this photo. As I was setting it up, I noticed my super chubbs kitty (Polly) suddenly hiding behind our mini plant in an attempt to score some bacon and maple syrup.